It’s a state budget that’s stuck in neutral. And for now, top Democrats and Gov. Kathy Hochul are not discussing the key topic of whether tax rates for upper income New Yorkers should increase.
"We in our one-house [budget proposal] talked about that possibility," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Wednesday. "But it’s not at the table right now."
A proposal to increase taxes on wealthy New Yorkers remains stalled in the budget negotiations as a broader agreement remains up in the air. The state budget is now nearly three weeks late, and a final deal is not expected this week.
Hochul has opposed increasing the personal income tax, the main driver of revenue for New York. Democratic lawmakers want to raise tax rates on people who earn $5 million and more a year and even higher rates on those who earn more than $25 million annually.
Supporters want tax increases to boost programs like child care for New York families. Opponents of tax hikes, including Republican lawmakers, have argued another tax rate hike after one two years ago will hurt the state's economy.
New York has a budget surplus of more than $8 billion, and this week state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli reported the state took in $3 billion more in tax revenue than initially projected. New York's overall personal income tax revenue has fallen by $12 billion in the last year.
State Sen. Jabari Brisport says the tax hike is needed.
"It is absolutely critical we tax the rich to fund priorities for working class New Yorkers," Brisport said. "Even though the governor has been consistently for the past months opposed to taxing the rich, we need to force her to tax her rich donors to ensure the rest of us can survive."
Progressive advocates, including Jasmine Gripper of the Alliance for Quality Education, have also pressed for the tax increase, calling it necessary to help fund safety net programs.
"There are so many priorities that our communities need that the budget is going to full short on if we don't make the investment," Gripper said.
Republican Assemblyman Robert Smullen, meanwhile, has blasted tax-the-rich proposals while also calling for measures to curb spending in the state.
"You know the New York motto is Excelsior, right? It means 'ever upward.' I guess this means under one party rule, that means our taxes are going ever upward," he said.
Smullen wants New York to use its surplus to either offset unemployment insurance taxes for employers or put in a rainy day fund.
"We definitely shouldn’t spend it," Smullen said. "We’re already up 30% (in overall spending) since I first got to the chamber only five years ago."